Less than three miles from its store in Hove, the latest addition to Gail’s portfolio is nestled in Brighton’s busy North Laines area. Surrounding it are offices, local independent shops and tourist hotspots, and it’s not too far from the train station or the seafront.
“Brighton and Hove are very different neighbourhoods,” Tom Molnar, CEO and co-founder, tells us. “Brighton is playful and some of the guys who worked at our other bakeries wanted to work over here.”
Their wish was Molnar’s command, and the store opened earlier this year.
On entry, the store is bright (it has large windows on two sides) yet cosy. It has enough seats to cater for the social lunch crowd, as well as a smaller, more secluded area for quiet chats and meetings.
“I like to jam people together a little bit,” Molnar admits, referencing the tables and chairs in close proximity to one another.
“Some people think it’s a tight squeeze and that they can’t move around, but I think if you bump into someone or back your chair into theirs, it encourages interaction, and that’s what a bakery should be.”
Aside from encouraging human contact, Gail’s primary focus is on the food. For
25 years it has provided bread to top chefs in London, as well as first- and business-class on a selection of airlines, executive areas in some football stadiums and five-star hotels.
“Our DNA, our culture, our background is serving chefs and being chef-led, and our idea for Gail’s was to bring that chef-quality food to everybody all the time,” says Molnar. “You don’t have to go to a Michelin-star restaurant, it should be more widely available.”
The bread is baked daily at the bakery in London, where the mother dough is kept. Everything else is proved and baked in the on-site Sveba Dahlen oven.
The logistics of this operation are the reason Gail’s only opens sites in the south-east of England. Any waste, of which Molnar says there is very little, is taken by the staff for friends and family or donated to local charities. In Brighton, it works with Sanctuary Supported Living, St Peter’s and FareShare Sussex.
It also sells a Waste-Less Sourdough, which uses a recipe developed by one of the bakers at its London headquarters. The loaf is made using unsold loaves from the day before (which are turned into porridge), white sourdough starter, malt and salt.
Gail’s Bakery, North Road, Brighton
Who: Tom Molnar, chief executive officer and
co-founder, Gail’s Bakery
What: A 55-cover bakery/café in the bustling North Laines area of Brighton, this is the 49th site in Gail’s portfolio. It offers a wide range of baked goods supplied out of Gail’s central bakery in London.
Where: 93 North Road, Brighton, BN1 1YE
When: The site opened in February 2019.
Why: Gail’s already had a site in the neighbouring area of Hove, and some of its staff had suggested opening in Brighton.
Location: The new site sits on North Road among a selection of restaurants, offices and the independent stores for which the area is famed.
Meal times: Gail’s offers options for breakfast, lunch and brunch in what Molnar describes as “a flexible way”. “People are waking up at different times and wanting different things,” he adds.
Coffee: 10 Gail’s bakeries now offer filter coffee, which is
made with a single-origin Colombian coffee from Union coffee roasters and brewed in small batches.
Bake-off: Pastries are laminated and folded at the main bakery in London, before being transported to stores where they are proved and baked, ready for sale.
Hove Wholemeal: Made with Baker’s Yeast, a wholemeal starter and wholemeal flour with the addition of seeds, this is the result of local requests for a family-friendly wholemeal loaf.
On display: Molnar made the conscious decision to have cakes and sweet treats on display uncovered, so that people could see and experience their options without barriers.